Ilford HP5+ 400 B&W Film Profile/Review
This tech page is for Ilford HP5+ Film, or HP5PLUS. This is a high speed B&W film that comes in 35mm roll, 120 roll, and various sheet sizes. It is a panchromatic black and white negative film with a nominal rating of ISO 400. HP5 has been around in various versions (HP4, HP3, etc.) for a really long time and is basically the long standing all purpose 400 speed film in Ilford’s lineup similar to how Tri-X is Kodak’s long standing 400 speed film in their lineup.
There are many ways to develop HP5PLUS. Following Ilford’s recommended development in their technical information sheet on their website is a good place to start if you’ve not developed this film before. If you send your film in here to Simple Film Lab, we develop HP5PLUS with replenished Kodak XTOL developer with constant rotary agitation in a JOBO film processor as standard practice. The development time is 7:30 at 75 degrees Fahrenheit and nets a usable speed of EI 500. We use a 1+4 water+vinegar stop bath between development and fixing.
There are many ways to meter and expose HP5PLUS. If sending HP5PLUS in to Simple Film Lab to process and scan, we recommend exposing HP5PLUS at an EI of 400 to 500. This is done by taking an incident light reading of the darkest part of the scene you want to retain details in and subtracting 2 stops of exposure from that reading. For example, if the darkest part of the scene that you want to retain detail in reads 1/125 shutter, f/4.0 at ISO 500, either set the shutter to 1/500 or close down the aperture to f/8.0, or a combination of the two to reduce the exposure by two stops. If you don’t have a light meter, then set your camera exposure compensation to +1 stop, and that will generally result in an acceptable exposure for most situations once scanned in and density corrected. If you want to add a stop of shadow information to the image, then place the darkest part of the image you want details in one stop down from the meter reading instead of two. HP5PLUS has enough highlight exposure latitude that this is safe to do and still retain good highlight information for pretty much anything except the highest contrast scenes.
Using Simple Film Lab, here’s the characteristic curve for HP5PLUS with the development described above.
The scale along the bottom is exposure in log lux-seconds, the scale along the left is the measured log density as measured by an X-Rite transmissive densitometer.
Dynamic Range/Exposure Latitude
Following the development practice described above HP5PLUS has excellent dynamic range. If you expose the film at EI 400 or 500 you will get very usable images with a solid 4-5 stops of shadow detail below a correctly exposed 18 percent grey card before film base plus fog and 5+ stops of highlight density with an easy 2-3 stops of over exposure latitude if you need it, though, you don’t really need to give it that much exposure.
HP5PLUS has good resolution for a 400 speed film. Ilford’s spec sheet doesn’t quote spatial resolution or have an MTF chart, however, with that being said, it looks a lot like Kodak 400TX. It’s not exactly the same, but I’d probably confuse the two if I didn’t know which was which when looking at a sequence of images shot on both films back-to-back. In terms of grain, again, it looks a lot like 400TX.